The daily lowdown on books, publishing, and the occasional author behaving badly.
Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg's Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead isn't even out yet, but it's already the most talked-about book of spring. Last month, the New York Times' Maureen Dowd dismissed Sandberg as the "PowerPoint Pied Piper in Prada ankle boots." The Daily Mail called her project a "failure" (and then sneaked in an unflattering comparison of Sandberg to actress Gwyneth Paltrow). But the initial anger over what Sandberg has called "a sort of feminist manifesto" has given way to something of a backlash. Earlier this week, Anna Holmes of The New Yorkertold Sandberg's critics that "maybe you should read the book," and on Wednesday, Bloomberg's Dan Schnur wrote that Sandberg's management strategies "can fix our politics." In the meantime, Lean In is steadily climbing the bestseller lists.
Self-portraits of famous authors in The Atlantic. (The highlight might be Flannery O'Connor's painting of herself holding a weirdly demonic pheasant.)
Jacob Bernstein on the death of his mother, writer Nora Ephron: "Now there she was, in her Chanel flats and her cream-colored pants and her black-and-white-striped blouse, looking so pretty and so fragile as she dabbed her eyes with a Kleenex; and I finally understood what she meant when said she was a bird — that she wasn't just talking about her looks but something inside as well."
Slate's David Haglund responds to complaints that dictionaries are legitimizing the use of the word "literally" as an intensifier (as in, "I'm literally going to kill you"): "The meanings of words change over time. And dictionaries — the most respected standard ones, that is, like the OED — record how people use words. Basic dictionaries don't primarily serve to provide guidelines for 'correct' usage. When people despair that some neologism is going into some dictionary or another, they might as well be complaining that an entry about some animal they really don't like is going to be printed in a zoological guide. These usages exist. Lexicographers keep track of them."